EU officials and tech executives met in Tallinn yesterday for the second meeting of a new cloud computing project, which aims to make European countries more self-sufficient in light of new security concerns over American IT service providers.
At a press conference, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who heads a team working to advance cloud technology in the EU, said recent revelations of massive Internet-based spying programs of American intelligence agencies have shown that Europe, which currently relies largely on US cloud services, needs its own independent services. Ilves said the developments are an opportunity to move forward in areas that had previously not been in the forefront of political concerns.
“Cloud computing I think was a vague and not always understood concept until about three weeks ago and now suddenly everyone knows what cloud computing is about because of the revelations regarding PRISM and other things,” Ilves said.
“The good thing is that we understand now how important it is for Europe to have it's own standards to protect the data of its citizens, and that in fact the European Union is their proper context within which to do this, since lots of us use cloud computing services. And as we found out, if you use Apple, Google Mail - those do not provide privacy and security or don't guarantee it, whereas a European system with European standards on these issues we can offer the citizens of Europe something which right now doesn't exist.”
Privacy as a competitive advantage
European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who oversees telecom matters, said the digital industry is the only part of the European economy that has not been integrated into a single market. She called for EU-wide specifications for cloud procurement, and said it was an issue both close to democracy and essential for SMEs.
Kroes warned that individual countries will feel a need to develop national legislation, which could hinder the development of cloud services. “If individual countries work disjointedly on separate national clouds then the potential is lost,” she said.
“Concerns about cloud security can easily push European policy into putting security guarantees ahead of open markets, with consequences for American companies,” Kroes said. “Privacy is not only a fundamental right, it can also be a competitive advantage.”